Murakami meets Mexican buses

Thanks to Elinor Comlay (@ElinorComlay), I learned about a very cool free e-book on the folkloric history of Mexican buses.  Here is the link and it is well worth checking out, just for the incredible photos, if nothing else.  The project is called Subale Hay Lugares, roughly translated as, Climb In, There are Places (we’ll see or go).

Here is the description of the project in Spanish.  It reminds me a lot of a Haruki Murakami novel, which is high praise:

La cultura que gira en torno al transporte público en México es muy amplia. Acercarse a la cultura estética de las diferentes rutas que surcan las calles de las ciudades mexicanas es adentrarse profundamente en la psique del mexicano. Todo es lo mismo, pero diferente. El lenguaje, por ejemplo, es definitivamente críptico. Aunque se utilicen las mismas palabras, los significados están trastocados. El mundo de los camiones y los peseros está aquí, convive con el nuestro, pero es otro.

It’s hard for me to translate it into English without losing a lot of the poetry.  Here are a couple of my favorite Murakami-like parts:

To explore the aesthetic culture of the different routes that cross the streets of Mexican cities is to delve deep into the Mexican psyche. Everything is the same, but different. Language, for example, is definitely cryptic. Although the same words are used, the meanings are disrupted. The world of trucks and buses is here, coexists with ours, but it is another.

Here are a couple great photos from the project:




Bad Idea file: Speaking truth to power in the Philippines

Manny Paqiao is many things. Boxer, crooner, member of the national legislature. But did you know that Manny is also a 5′ 6″ tall professional basketball player?

Well he is and you better STFU about it too, as Oklahoma’s own Daniel Orton recently found out.

Daniel is a 6′ 10″ professional basketball player who once played for the OKC Thunder and was playing in the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association), when his team (the Purefoot Hotshots!) played Manny’s team.

Afterward Orton said, “Professional boxer, yeah, okay… professional basketball player, no. It’s a joke,”

And that was it. He was first fined around $5000 and then fired from his job and banned from the league.

“Everyone is angry at him… it is like he went to the United States and insulted the name of Martin Luther King,” said Rene Pardo, the top administrator for the Purefood Hotshots.

But people, Manny Paqiao IS a terrible basketball player, and I’ll go way out on a limb and say that, for all his accomplishments, MLK would have been a terrible professional basketball player too!

Scientific Socialism, or the cult of Pooty-poot

Thanks to The Guardian, which has a tremendous slideshow up this morning on Putin’s teenage fan club.  The photos are the best part but some of the comments are hysterical too.  Here are some of my favorites:

“I like how Putin treats his children and wife, I think he’s a great husband.”  Didn’t Putin cheat on his wife for years with an Olympic gymnast and then recently divorce her?  Here is the fangirl in question:  (she seems like a well-balanced teenager)


“Putin is my hero, he inspires me, adds science to my actions.”  Hmm, science to her actions?  Scientific socialism?  Scientific kleptocracy?  Scientific imperial aggression?  Here’s our budding scientist in a t-shirt with Putin’s face in the moon.  wow!


Vika says “Putin is like God to me. I perceive him as daddy. He is a perfect man – politician, sportsman, family man. I want my husband to be like him!”  Another well-balanced individual. She wants a husband that cheats on her and then leaves her for a much younger, athletic type?  Maybe she should check out this guy:


Schooling isn’t education, example number 437

English is a hard language to learn. No doubt about it, but this is kind of bad:

“A recent survey by Mexicanos Primero, an education NGO, found that four-fifths of secondary-school graduates had “absolutely no knowledge” of English, despite having spent at least 360 hours learning it in secondary school. English teachers were not much better: one in seven had no English whatsoever.”

The article details the usual problems, too much focus on written grammar, no conversation, teaching to the (written) test.

I learned Spanish the fast but very hard way, by moving to Mexico and taking a job that required me to speak it all day long!

About a month before we started work, Robin and I enrolled in a spanish language school in our neighborhood of Polanco. Robin tested into the very top class. I was put in a class where they showed you pictures of a cat, you said “gato”, and they gave you a cookie!

But forced immersion worked and I was soon getting through teaching 90 minute economics classes (though unscripted Q and A in that first semester was really terrifying to me).

If any of you are looking for a less intense way to learn some Spanish, I’d suggest the cool, free, Duolingo app.

The Orwellian world of Venezuela

Simon Romero (@viaSimonRomero) tweeted this picture of a book at a Caracas bookstore:


“War is peace” and “Voices of Liberty” come from Chavez, Jesus, Simon Bolivar, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara, Gandhi, Fidel Castro.  Huh, that’s quite a grouping.  How did Jesus and Gandhi end up with this crew?

All the (bad) news that’s fit to blog about, Mexico edition

Mexican officials often bemoan the fact that American media focuses too much on the negative when it comes to reporting about the country.  Here I pile on:

1. Watering down transparency laws in Mexico (in Spanish)

2. Watering down the new education reforms by agreeing to “pay salaries and bonuses owed to a group of public-school teachers who are not on the official payroll.”

3. “Amid wave of thefts, Mexico won’t ship gasoline in pipelines”

4. “Disappearances Double in Mexico”